Haaland smashes four past Wolves as Man City back in title race box seat

Champions win 5-1 at the Etihad Stadium to close gap at top to one point with a game in hand

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Erling Haaland scored four goals – including a first-half hat-trick – as champions Manchester City crushed Wolves 5-1 to retain the box seat in the Premier League title race.

Pep Guardiola’s side needed to respond to leaders Arsenal’s comfortable victory over Bournemouth earlier on Saturday and they did so emphatically, with a clinical take-down of their hapless visitors at the Etihad Stadium.

Haaland struck twice from the penalty spot in the first half, either side of a towering header, before adding a fourth with a stunning strike. It was the first time he has score four in a game for City.

Substitute Julian Alvarez also got on the scoresheet, while Wolves’ consolation came from Hwang Hee-chan.

The victory lifted City, chasing an unprecedented fourth successive league crown, back within a point of the Gunners with a game in hand.

Haaland’s outstanding display took his tally for the campaign to 36 in all competitions and lifted him to 25 – five clear of his nearest challengers – in the race for the Premier League’s Golden Boot. His hat-trick was also his ninth in City colours.

For Wolves’ players there was little escape from the onslaught, although manager Gary O’Neil may have been relieved his touchline ban kept him hidden from view.

City’s determination was clear from the outset and it came as no surprise that they soon took the lead, although there was debate over their first penalty after 12 minutes.

Josko Gvardiol was shaping to shoot as Rayan Ait-Nouri attempted to clear and the pair collided. The decision could have gone either way but referee Craig Pawson awarded the spot-kick and Haaland confidently tucked away.

Aided by some poor Wolves defending, City could soon have had more as Kevin De Bruyne shot wide and Wolves goalkeeper Jose Sa pushed away a Haaland header. Phil Foden dribbled through the area only to lose control at the vital moment.

The inevitable second came in the 35th minute as Rodri won possession, continued his run and exchanged passes with De Bruyne before lofting a cross to the back post where Haaland rose magnificently to head past Sa.

The Norwegian completed his treble in first-half stoppage time with a second penalty after he was brought down by Nelson Semedo.

This time Pawson was not convinced but pointed to the spot after reviewing the challenge on the pitchside monitor.

Wolves, who offered little before the break, pulled one back against the run of play after 53 minutes.

City keeper Ederson, who overcame a shoulder injury to start, palmed a cross from Jean-Ricner Bellegarde into the path of Hwang and the Korean turned the ball into the net.

Yet any hopes Wolves – or even Arsenal – might have had of a fightback were dispelled immediately and resoundingly by Haaland.

The forward latched on to a long ball from Foden and cut inside to blast a ferocious shot into the far corner from just inside the area.

Haaland almost had a fifth moments later as he forced a fine save from Sa but, after also denying Mateo Kovavic, the keeper was beaten again by Alvarez five minutes from time.

Hat-trick hero Haaland told Sky Sports: "An important win. Three points – focus on the next one, we keep going."

Asked about how he maintains his motivation, he added with a smile: "I've got a not so bad manager who pushes me and look at the players around me, I've said it so many times before, without them it would not be possible. I try to develop every single day.

"Look ahead, look to next one – four finals left for season. We’re going to go for it and focus on Fulham."

On whether Guardiola is thinking about goal difference, he said: “No. First of all it’s about winning the games but of course you want to have the best possible goal difference. Let's not think about that. Think about Fulham [at Craven Cottage on Saturday].”

Guardiola to said afterwards: "It looks comfortable but it was not. In the end we created more chances but in the transition we were not precise in the last pass. But Erling [Haaland] is back to business. Penalties are a guarantee but the second and fourth [goals] were unbelievable.

"They are a really, really good team but we made calls in the right moment, especially with the fourth because at 3-1 anything can happen.

"The 20 minutes he [Haaland] played against Nottingham Forest was really good and today as well. We won, but it was so long an injury. It is welcome he arrived in the right moment. But we arrive together because Erling and Kevin [De Bruyne] have been out, but Phil [Foden] and Julian [Alvarez] have played so well."

On Haaland's reaction after coming off, he said: "He's a little bit frustrated, but I understand. He was frustrated with the referee. With the long balls sometimes they push him and he is pulled. Yes, it is like that.

"Goal difference is not possible, we cannot draw. The way Arsenal have been playing has been so good and consistent. It's three games, hopefully we win the first and the second and arrive to the third with our destiny in our own hands."

Updated: May 04, 2024, 7:07 PM